|Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School, Long Island City, Queens|
30-20 Thomson Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101
Phone: (718) 361-9920 Fax: (718) 361-9995
Donna Finn, Principal
Department of Education Official Site:
INSIDE SCHOOLS REVIEW: http://insideschools.org/index12.php?fso=1151&all=y
Grades 9 to 12
4-year graduation rate: 87.8%
Ethnicity, 52% white, 19 percent black, 25 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian
The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts offers student dancers, singers, musicians, artists and actors training in their area of talent along with an academic program that's just as strong as the arts. It's a small school, where the principal knows every student and even notices when one is late to school. "I missed you this morning," Principal Donna Finn said to a student she passed in the corridor late one morning. ("I know, I had a doctor appointment," he replied.) Some students find the attention suffocating, but most seem to appreciate it.
Housed in leased space on the 6th and 7th floors of an office building that also houses the Devry Technical School, a private for-profit college, Frank Sinatra has sunny rooms and well-lit corridors that circle an interior atrium. White walls and dark green lockers give the space a crisp, clean feel. While there are ample dance studios, art rooms and a small theater, the school has no gymnasium. Physical education including weight training, aerobics and kickboxing is taught in an exercise room.
The arts are integrated into an interdisciplinary curriculum. The French teacher, for example, takes students to plays at the French Institute. Students learn about the music, literature and art of the periods they are studying in history. A time line, posted on the wall of a history class, includes the dates of the earliest known musical instrument (a prehistoric flute) as well as landmarks of art and music in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. "We want them to learn not only the production of an art form, but also the history and culture," said Finn. Class trips to the opera, to Broadway shows, to dance performance and to the Museum of Modern Art mean students are exposed to all art forms not just their special talent.
Finn has taken steps to ensure that the academics are as strong as the arts. When she discovered that many students were struggling in math, she reduced class size for math to fewer than 25 students. Most students take not only the Math A Regents exam, required for all graduates, but also the Math B advanced exam, required for the Advanced Regents diploma. In a challenging and engaging pre-calculus class, students sketched a parabola with graphing calculators. Still, the range of math courses is limited, and one student said, "If you are a math genius, you don't want to come to our school." The school offers the standard four-year science sequence earth science, living environment, chemisty and physics as well as electives in forensic science, marine biology and AP biology.
We sat in on some imaginative history and English classes. One English teacher encouraged students to discuss why the Epic of Gilgamesh, written on clay tablets in cuneiform, wasn't translated into English until 1870. Another English teacher asked students to think about the pros and cons of pre-colonial Ibo culture while reading Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe's modern classic about the clash of African and European cultures during British colonial rule. In a U.S. history class, students read an 18th century autobiographical sketch of a freed slave living in Britain. In a global history class students studied Hinduism and the caste system by playing a board game called "Hindiusm." One card read: "Bad Karma. Back two spaces."
Students audition for a "studio" in dance, instrumental music, vocal music, fine arts, or drama In 11th grade, students may stay in their studio or switch to film-making, musical theater, or theater technology.
College admissions: The school graduated its first class in 2004. About half went to regular four-year colleges, and half went to conservatories. One graduate in the first class went to Columbia University, others went to Williams, NYU, University of Connecticut, University of Delaware and SUNY and CUNY schools.
Admissions: Students must audition to be admitted. Although the school is open to children from all five boroughs, 90% of the students come from Queens. There is an open house in the fall. This school is featured in NYC's Best Public High Schools: A Parent's Guide. (This school is featured in NYC\'s Best Public High Schools: A Parent\'s Guide. Clara Hemphill, November 2005)